Amy Hammond Hagberg
called a guitar prodigy, a virtuoso, and a once-in-a-generation blues
His debut solo album,
Lie to Me, was recorded when he was just 15 years old. It went platinum,
as did the following year’s release, Wander This World. He spent
his teenage years with guitar legends like B.B. King and Buddy Guy and
toured almost non-stop with the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Sting.
Altogether, Jonny Lang has recorded five albums and earned a Grammy
standards, he was a wild success. But between the drinking, the drugs
and his fascination with the occult, Lang was about as lost as he could
into the music spotlight when he was only 13, critics and fans were
astounded by Lang’s soulful playing and gravelly vocals; he sounded
more like a 40-year-old blues veteran than a North Dakota farm boy.
His first band was
called “Jonny Lang and the Big Bang.” After two years together,
they attended a showcase event where record labels were scouting for
new acts. Lang was snapped up and signed as a solo artist by A&M
Lie to Me debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s New Artist chart. The
excitement and pressure of being with a major label definitely changed
things for Lang.
was on the road constantly, playing with musicians twice my age in places
where they check your ID at the door. But it didn’t matter how
old I was because I was the headliner,” he says. Lang’s
circle of friends was considerably older, forcing him to grow up far
too quickly. “I got involved with a lot of ‘adult’
activities very young ... I joined the band and started drinking, started
smoking cigarettes ... By the time I was probably 17, I was smoking
two packs a day — I was an alcoholic by that time as well,”
the 24-year-old remembers. By the end of his teens he was doing marijuana,
ecstasy, hallucinogens and many other drugs.
Full to the brim
with partying and performing, Lang had no room in his life for God.
Admittedly, he was turned off by the church’s supposed legalism.
“I wasn’t really at a point where I was interested in being
accountable for my actions,” he confides. Instead, he traveled
several other spiritual paths. “I started getting involved with
other religions; I guess witchcraft for lack of a better term ... I
had experiences and saw things, but I didn’t know it was bad at
that time ... I thought, ‘This is where the power’s at,
this is for real.’ ”
Throughout his climb
to stardom, Lang’s family was constantly praying that he would
come to know Jesus Christ. When he was 16, he started dating his future
wife, Haylie, whom he’d met while on tour in California. Lang
became good friends with her family, especially her father, Cliff.
When he was in town,
Haylie’s family encouraged him to go to church with them. But
he wasn’t up for it. “If anybody tried to talk to me about
God or Jesus I would say things like, ‘Okay, I’ve heard
that one and I’m not interested.’ ”
The couple broke up for a period of time, but when Cliff became sick
with cancer and Hepatitis C, Lang paid a visit. One night while he was
there, he went out with a friend to get high. They went to his friend’s
apartment, but before they had a chance to do anything, the phone rang.
It was Haylie’s mom informing him that Cliff had died. Upon leaving
the apartment building, Lang was suddenly hit in his stomach by the
most incredible force, ultimately spreading throughout his entire body.
“I had this
soundness of mind and this extraordinary peace that I just couldn’t
explain,” he recalls. “It was an incredible feeling.”
In his mind,
Lang tried to find a natural explanation for it. He certainly never
thought it might have something to do with God. When he got back to
the house, everybody was just beside themselves. “I was not the
kind of person who could deal with those kinds of emotions. But whatever
had happened to me in that apartment hallway gave me a special wisdom
to handle it,” he recalls. “Everything I said was the perfect
counsel — wisdom that I just did not possess.”
As the coroner was
removing Cliff’s body, Lang and Haylie sat in the backyard sharing
memories of her father. It was then that something supernatural occurred.
Inexplicably, the power of God hit Lang so hard that he started shaking
in his chair. “It was like somebody grabbed my shoulders and shook
me forcefully back and forth,” he remembers. “Yet at the
same time, I felt total peace. I heard Jesus say to me, ‘You don’t
have to have this if you don’t want it.’ But I wanted it
more than anything I’d ever wanted in my whole life.” Lang
fell to the ground and gave his life to Christ right at that moment.
That was four years
ago. Since then, the artist’s life has completely turned around.
“From then on, I had absolutely zero cravings for the drugs, the
alcohol or the tobacco. The best recovery program in the world can’t
claim that,” he says. Today Lang is once again back in the limelight
with a renewed vision and a shift in priorities. His musical style has
evolved into an eclectic combination of soul and rock with some blues
kicked in for good measure.
His latest recording,
released this May, chronicles his incredible spiritual journey and is
aptly titled Turn Around.
For this particular prodigy, life has gained new meaning far beyond
riches or fame. “There’s nothing that could convince me
otherwise; Jesus is the living God,” Lang declares.
For Jonny Lang’s
complete testimony, check out ‘How Do You Know He’s Real?’
(Destiny Image) by Amy Hammond Hagberg.
courtesy Vector Promotion
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